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Joint Base Charleston receives new 437th Airlift Wing command chief

By Airman 1st Class Sara Jenkins | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | Sept. 23, 2020

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —

An Air Force command chief’s job is to take care of Airmen and ensure the mission is successful, but there is hard work and many challenges along the way to obtain that position.

Joint Base Charleston’s 437th Airlift Wing has received a new command chief who is dedicated to helping Airmen and making sure they are prepared to complete the mission.

Chief Master Sgt. Charmaine Kelley, the 437th AW command chief, explained how important her job of taking care of Airmen is.

“My job entails taking care of Airmen by helping them with their training and readiness and full spectrum taking care of Airmen,” said Kelley. “The people I take care of is what’s important. I wouldn’t say that my job is the important piece, the important piece is what I do which is to take care of the Airmen and making sure they are properly trained and equipped to take care of the mission.”

Kelley said working at Joint Base Charleston is a new experience for her because she is working in a field she hasn’t worked in before.

“This is first time that I’ve had an opportunity to work outside of the support world,” said Kelley. “I came from the mission support group and now that I’m here, I’m working with the Airlift Wing, which is taking care of our operators and maintainers so that is unique for me.”

Kelly went on to describe other unique points in her career which happen to be some of the peaks in her career such as attending the Chief Petty Officer Academy.

 “A highlight was when I got to go to the Chief Petty Officer Academy for the Coast Guard,” said Kelley. “That was actually one of the highest parts of my career because I had a chance to remember who I was. It reminded me I was Charmaine Kelley and that is because the Coast Guard Academy focused on the person. We got back to the root of development and self-care.”   

Kelley went on to recount another high point in her career, performing in a group made up of active duty member of the Air Force.

“Another highlight of my career is having the opportunity to tour with the Air Forces Tops in Blue,” said Kelley. “I got to travel as a vocalist during the 50th anniversary of the Air Force and that was when I started my career in the Air Force. We went through 30 days of training where we would work from six A.M. to midnight, dancing and singing and that was a lot of work.

While Kelley had many highlights in her career, similar to most people in the military and in any other career field, Kelley said that she faced challenges in her career that changed her as a person and how she performs her job.

“I had ran into a situation at a base where I wasn’t the best version of myself, mainly because I chose not to be,” said Kelley. “The reason that I say I chose not to be is because I did not take the time to seek the help that I needed. The situation forever changed me. It changed the way that I think, changed the way that I handle things and changed the way that I dealt with people. Since I didn’t quite know how to deal with people before the situation, I didn’t know how to respond to situations that I now know how to.”

Kelley explained that even though she faced challenges, she doesn’t regret her decision to join because of her “why.” She decided to join the Air Force because of a tragedy that happened in her family when she was in high school. 

“I remember my ninth grade year, my oldest brother, who was in the Navy, came home on leave and while on leave he was shot and killed,” said Kelley. “He was 21 and I remember at his funeral I just looked at him and I told him I was going to finish his journey for him. When I said it, I meant it. Therefore when things have gotten a little hard or a little bit challenging for me during my career, I was able to keep going because I made that promise and I knew what my ‘why’ was. When people asked me if I would become a chief master sergeant one day, I knew I would because I told him I was going to finish his journey. I didn’t quite know what a chief was but I knew what an E-9 was. Along the way my mentors and the people I chose to surround myself with helped me learn what a chief is. You’ll hear that there is a difference between an E-9 and a chief, and I wanted to be a chief. A chief takes care of their people. A chief understands that at the heart of each person, there is an underlying purpose and a chief knows that their job is to pull back the curtain and figure out how they’re going to help them get to where they’re supposed to be.”

Kelley explained that she is still very happy with her choice to join the Air Force.

“I have no regrets about joining the Air Force. It paid for my education and it brought my why into fruition. What’s there to regret?”